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The office expenses book of C.F.A. Voysey, 1906-1940

The RIBA archives include a book of Voysey’s day-to-day office spending from January 1906 to March 1940, when he moved to a nursing home in Winchester. It is one of four key Voysey volumes in the archives, the other three being the Black Book, the White Book and the address book.

The office expenses book was acquired by the RIBA in 2001 and is catalogued under reference VoC/2/1. It is written in Voysey’s own hand and arranged in three columns (date, description, cost) and contains much of interest including rent payments, wages for pupils and other office staff, cleaning, travel and income tax as well as many hundreds of client-related expenses. There are payments for furniture samples, costs relating to some well known design pieces such as the Devil, the Pelican and various items of silver, bookplates and badges, costs for exhibitions and many others.

Sadly, records prior to 1906 seem not to have survived, which means that we do not have similar insight during Voysey’s most productive architectural period.

In the early years, there are frequent references to key clients such as S.C. Turner (for whom Voysey was designing The Homestead in Frinton and fitting out the offices of the Essex & Suffolk Equitable Insurance Society), E.J. Horniman (Garden Corner) and C.T. Burke (Hollymount). Other clients with regular mentions include Lady Lovelace, P.A. Barendt and the Müntzer family, both as building contractor and as client for Littleholme in Guildford.

As time moves on from the early years, there are fewer client-specific items and the monthly costs for pupils and weekly payments to other staff fall away. As late as 1937 there are a handful of small expense payments connected with Lady Lovelace but otherwise almost all client-related costs had ceased by 1930.

By modern standards, office expenses were on a very modest scale, ranging from a peak in 1907 of £341 to less than £6 in 1918. When Voysey ran a separate office, rent was the largest individual cost. In the years following the first World War, spending was generally in the £150 to £250 range but much of this was for rent, income tax and life insurance premiums. In 1923, income tax was £103 out of a total expenditure for the year of £195.

The Society’s transcription

The office expenses book has not been transcribed in full, which would have included hundreds of small incidental office, travel and other unattributed payments. Our transcription does though contain around 2000 transactions, including all the client-related items we could identify, payments in relation to specified designs and those connected with other named individuals. We believe that the vast majority of payments that will interest researchers have been captured but no doubt some will have been missed. Where regular weekly, monthly or quarterly payments were made to pupils, office staff or for rent, the transcription includes illustrative examples only.

The office expenses book adds to our knowledge of what Voysey was doing and precisely when, and the dates he met clients, including visits to their homes. Such visits invariably included a recorded travel expense and payments to servants. This information complements what is recorded in Voysey’s other records.

Whilst the Black Book and the White Book are structured by client and project to give the reader relatively easy oversight of individual architectural projects, they contain little about other designs. The office expenses book fills some of those gaps and our transcript gives a structure that the original lacks as we can now see all of the interactions with individual clients over the full period of more than 30 years in a single document without having to inspect page after page of the original.

The Society has also transcribed the book in order to provide members with access to information without the need to consult the original, which is in a fragile state. Whilst we have taken care, we cannot be held responsible for errors and misunderstandings. Researchers may wish to check the original for certainty. We welcome comments and corrections: please contact us.

Page last amended 1st January 2019